The Trading of Art in the Lattes Civilization

We begin to see pottery not only as having a practical but also artistic purpose in the Lattes region during the 7th century B.C.. Ceramic works like vases and urns are used as household goods for the transporting of foods and drinks but also a surface upon which to explore a new art form through engraving and painting. The development of pottery in this Lattes civilization such as with the Etruscan vases and urns showed that the inhabitants were not simply creating practical tools for domestic use but rather using these surfaces as an inspiration upon which to be creative as we begin to see patterns, inscriptions, and paintings decorating these domestic goods for aesthetic purposes. It is remarkable how well constructed some of these art forms were despite not having been wheel-spun but rather crafted by hand. The fact that these handcrafted goods were made without molds or any other kind of forming tools makes each one of these vases, urns, inscriptions, paintings, etc, unique as they are not mass produced and each one represents something important that the individual artist hoped to highlight in their own work. Special attention and certainly a lot of time is dedicated to each one of these works which is fascinating to think about because it is around this time that we begin to see a particular intent in these artists as they begin to be what we call “detail-oriented” and “perfectionists” as they explore the beauty of art.

Pottery then became not only a creative new art medium but also a source of revenue and culture exchange as commerce began to flourish in port towns like Marseille. It is remarkable how developed certain trading routes became that Marseille witnessed a cultural exchange with places like Egypt and Greece as it became a monopoly city for trade by the 5th century B.C. Furthermore, contracts between different civilizations across the sea were actually created in order to maintain a structured commercial system which again shows not only how important trade became for the inhabitants of the Lattes region that they wanted to maintain its success but also just how modern they were becoming. We can see a shift in lifestyle from a prehistoric and agricultural Lascaux people to a more “capitalist” proto-historic commercially driven Lattes civilization that highly valued wines and ceramics acquired through exchanges. This new economic drive seen in the Lattes inhabitants’ development of trade shows a new interest in reaching out to discover what existed beyond their own region. Instead, one sees a civilization open to the sea develop a curiosity and admiration for foreign goods and cultures.

Not only do these traded goods like ceramics and wine provide a mixing of cultures by acquiring new goods and exporting one’s own across the Mediterranean but this commercial exchange also begins to affect the way the Lattes people began to see and measure things with the establishment of currencies for the purpose of trading. This modernization can be seen when civilizations by the 1st century B.C began to use coins instead of implementing a simple goods exchange as a way to trade.  One beautifully decorated vase filled with wine from Italy no longer equaled one Lattes urn filled with olive oil from Greece. Rather, the development of economic trade brought about the need to rethink the simplicity of their former trading system. With the establishment of different currencies, it is clear that the Lattes region was greatly influenced by its neighbors across the sea that had already begun to use coins to trade goods long ago, but also embraced a new way of looking at art. One could argue that this is the beginning of art as a commercial good where not only its intent and utility but its aesthetic qualities were admired and valued to the point where it began to be measured in coins and economic terms rather than by practical uses or cultural expression and admiration.

 

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